Two Cents: The November-December PF Topic Wordings

Two Cents is back at it again – this time, we’ll be covering the first ever November-December PF Topic Area: Healthcare. Contributing to this article are Carlyn Yang (Plano West, UT Austin) and Lee Place (Trinity Prep, UC Berkeley).

Here are the NSDA’s topic choices:
OPTION 1 – Resolved: The United States should establish a national single-payer health care program.

OPTION 2 – Resolved: The United States federal government should impose price controls on the pharmaceutical industry.

Carlyn Yang

Carlyn debated for Plano West Senior high school and is a three-time state and national qualifier. Some of her achievements include 2nd place at the University of Texas tournament, 3rd at the TFA state tournament, and first seed at the Grapevine classic.

For those of us who aren’t healthcare economists, national single payer healthcare, colloquially known as Medicare for All, is a system in which a public or quasi-public actor finances healthcare that is delivered through private entities. Considering that the United States is consistently ranked near the bottom for global healthcare metrics, teams on this topic should focus on thorough comparative worlds analyses and contextualizing how (or how not) a single payer healthcare system would be an improvement.

Judges on this topic are likely to walk into rounds with evident predispositions, and teams might find it difficult to entertain the personal politics of judges in fighting for the ballot. This, not aided by the fact that topic literature on this resolution seems to lean affirmative, remains one of the weaker aspects of this resolution. Fortunately, its clear and relatively simple wording establishes patent ground for both sides, and considering the spotlight on healthcare in the current administration, topic literature is abundant and constantly being published.

Final Grade: B-

Option Two is similar to the first in that it has a large foundational literature base; however of the two, text on the pharmaceutical industry, despite still being pretty politically charged, will likely have more substantive and concrete warranting in addition to statistical analysis, as opposed to just empirical facts or unsubstantiated claims. Though the topic appears aff-biased on face, in reality the literature base is actually fairly balanced for both sides, and teams should have an enjoyable time making warranted, yet nuanced arguments that will make for some interesting rounds.

On the argumentation level, I think one of the selling points of the resolution lies in the fact that it allows debaters to engage in much more conceptual debates. Though some teams will inevitably fall into the advocacy trap of running hyper specific positions that they feel they can comfortably defend, teams that choose to engage on a higher, more theoretical level are likely to emerge victorious in terms of bigger picture clash. In terms of impact debate, you are less likely to see the variety you would find on other topics; however, that’s not to say there aren’t a plethora of impact scenarios and frameworks you can write to run out-of-box, yet successful positions.

Final Grade: B+

Lee Place

Lee competed for Trinity Prep and served as team captain his senior year. In 2 years of national circuit competition, Lee reached late outrounds at Florida Blue Key (twice), NDCA, Yale, Grapevine, Apple Valley, Emory, and Berkeley. Lee amassed 10 total bids to the Tournament of Champions throughout his career. He is a sophomore at UC Berkeley, planning to study Business Administration and Public Policy and coaches Mission San Jose.

The first topic is a classic debate about public vs. private healthcare that has been facing developed nations for the last 50 years. Although it seems unrealistic in the Trump era with attempts to dismantle even the affordable care act, in 2020 and onward universal healthcare is sure to be a key issue on the democratic side. This resolution should be great to debate with a wealth of topic literature and a world replete with examples from which to back up theoretical arguments. Equality of care vs. quality of care should be an interesting debate that could delve deep into morality. However, this topic is definitely a bit narrow, especially for a 2 month topic. Coming up with unique arguments may prove difficult to do and even more difficult to find evidence for. Hopefully, the lack of arguments will force students to delve further into the nuance of healthcare systems and their arguments. Overall, this should be a good debate to compete in and watch, but it may get very repetitive by the end of December.

Final Grade: B+

The second topic is an important issue that needs to be talked about, but perhaps not a great high school debate. Regulating the Pharmaceutical industry is very important and incredibly complicated. Specifically, the idea of price controls is a technical economic concept that many students may not understand which makes the resolution difficult to begin with, especially for novices. Furthermore, debaters will find this topic very difficult to debate in front of “lay” judges, as explaining why corporations should be able to charge exorbitant prices for life saving medication will be incredibly difficult. On this point, finding neg ground at all may be an issue, for as long as Aff has good responses to innovation they should have clear access to lives. It’s not all pessimistic though! This topic is a fascinating issue, as is the entire industry, and definitely a great thing for students to learn about. It also has been very studied by economists, and should represent a good cross section of public policy and science issues which helps appeal to students with interests outside of just politics or foreign policy.

Final Grade: C

What are your thoughts on these topics? Let us know by leaving a comment below!